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Meet RIXO’s Orlagh McCloskey And Henrietta Rix, Female Founders In Fashion

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“The reason we’ve done so well is that we’ve done things our own way. We’ve been fearless,” says Henrietta Rix, half of the designer duo that make up the womenswear brand, RIXO.

Rix and her partner in business, Orlagh McCloskey, are on the phone from London, where their company is based. It’s morning there and they’re in the aftermath of having just moved warehouses while onboarding 3 new hires. “We’re getting the right team structured and in place, that is the main focus of this year, as our headcount has doubled,” says McCloskey. The conversation is fast-paced, filled with excitement, and ideas are spewing out fast. They’re practically finishing each other’s sentences.  

This symbiosis between the two has been there from the very start when they met as students at the London College of Fashion. “We were lucky because we lived together for 4 years before we had a business,” says McCloskey. “It was kind of a partnership before we became a business, and it’s one of the key reasons why RIXO grew so fast. We operate with a level of common sense and both have the same mentalities of positivity and determination.”

They took these shared mindsets and common values and used them to define the brand’s proposition and create something that reflects them, instead of something so aspirational and far-removed from who they are at their core. The result is a line of versatile, feminine pieces with a hippie-ish vibe in jumbles of vibrant (mostly silk) prints at attainable price points. “RIXO is real, savvy, honest,” says McCloskey. “And that’s in part because we didn’t have the money other brands have.” 

McCloskey is referring to the norm in the fashion industry where many brands are started and supported through family money, connections, and other important yet non-meritocratic resources. Without any of those things at their disposal, they started RIXO on a shoestring without startup capital or investors, relying on the only resource available: themselves. 

“We’re not from fashion backgrounds. We’re not even from London. We didn’t have contacts in the fashion world, or mothers and fathers who knew people who knew people, so we played every single role in the business, from picking up the e-commerce, shipping it ourselves and then working all night. This happened for two years,” says Rix. “We didn’t even have a warehouse. We turned a bedroom into a warehouse.”

In those early days, they also did things like work with suppliers for free to get better payment terms and never kept any press or sales agencies on retainer. So one wonders, without all these things considered indispensable in launching a fashion brand, how exactly did they get Rixo’s name out there?

The designers worked from a spreadsheet of contacts whom they cold-called for meetings. Or they physically went door to door with suitcases of their products telling everyone about the brand. “We had to get the product out there. We didn’t have a plan B,” says Rix. “It had to work.”

“There were also a few key fundamentals when we set up the business,” McCloskey adds. “For one, we didn’t spend any money until we had money. That helped us. The product was great as was the value for the product, those were right.”

Launching RIXO was like putting together pieces of a puzzle, of which a very important piece was Instagram. For Rix and McCloskey the social media platform played a big role in the growth of their brand because they used it to get in touch with people they would otherwise not have access to, such as buyers from Saks and Net-a-Porter—the former who picked them up in their first season—all while being able to showcase their brand and aesthetic. 

“It got the message out there in a way that was free to use and you can build up the story of what the brand looked like. As small as that sounds, it was such an important part,” says McCloskey. 

The obsession for creating the highest quality product at the right price meant making very streamlined decisions regarding production, which for them meant taking their manufacturing outside of the UK to China. While the ‘Made in China’ label may be a turn off for some, the designers cared more about the product than about the perception.  

“I don’t care that it says Made in China because I feel strongly that my product is good enough and my production is good enough,” asserts McCloskey. “Also, I didn’t have the luxury to make the mistakes with ten factories before finding one that worked. It was about resources, it was about what I had.”

They go on to commend Chinese production as being ahead of other countries in terms of workers and working conditions, that as the country’s economy grows so do the standards of living, which means higher standards in the factories. “Marks and Spencer and other high street are pulling from China because the standards are now too high. Chinese standards are higher than Sri Lanka’s,” says Rix. 

“And because we use silk, most of the world’s silk comes from China. Even if you are getting your silk and it says made in Italy, it’s coming from China,” explains McCloskey. “We saw that it’s made in China and being shipped from China. So why get the silk from Italy, which was shipped from China, and then ship it back to China for production? The carbon footprint doesn’t make sense.”

It’s not as though they didn’t explore having their products made in Britain. They did. But found that they were getting taking advantage of at every turn by UK producers. The experience they had time and time again when attempting to make the line in Britain was that every producer they went to based their production price on the expected retail price of the garment. So, if they went to a producer with a dress which they wanted to sell at retail for $500, the manufacturer would quote them a price relevant to what they wanted to get at retail. 

“The only reason they’re asking is so they can figure out what to charge you. All you are doing is handing that control over to a supplier. I think that’s why a lot of brands struggle, they’re paying too much to suppliers,” says Rix. “If I had went with the first few suppliers who tried to rip us off because they saw two young girls walk in, we would be in a different place than we are now.”

Where they are now is a place where they are running a global brand, one that is also a profitable business. 

“We’re directors of the company, we’re responsible for everyone getting paid, and we’ve got to answer to that. We have to control the cash flow, and we take it really seriously,” says McCloskey.

Rix chimes in, adding, “In the end customer gets the real true value because we are spending where it’s right.”



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@oliviapalermo walking into the weekend in SS20 @silviatcherassi dress #oliviap…

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@oliviapalermo walking into the weekend in SS20 @silviatcherassi dress 🤍🖤 #oliviapalermo #silviatcherassi #azziandco



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How to Bring the Vision of an Instagram Decor Influencer Into Your Home

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Ms. Merhi is not widely known in the interior design world, with no profiles in magazines like Architectural Digest or Better Homes & Gardens. Yet her Instagram following dwarfs those of better-known designers with large social media platforms like Justina Blakeney’s Jungalow, with 1.3 million followers or Bobby Berk of “Queer Eye,” with 2.6 million followers.

She doesn’t see herself as overlooked by the design community, but instead as someone who operates outside if it. “It doesn’t tap into the everyday person’s home, the millions and millions of people out there who don’t have a multimillion-dollar home and a multimillion-dollar budget and want that look,” she said. Those homeowners “are more in need of me and what I can do and what I can offer.”

Ms. Merhi, 36, credits a childhood spent in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo for her sense of style. Her parents, both Lebanese, moved frequently because of political upheaval, and when they’d resettle in a new house, her mother would hire local craftsmen to build the furniture that she designed for their home. “I learned at a young age how to achieve a look by doing it yourself, because there’s no Home Goods there, there’s no Wayfair,” she said.

Ms. Merhi moved to the United States in 2001 to study political science. In 2012, when she and her husband, William Merhi, a cardiologist, began remodeling their 5,000-square-foot home, she turned to Instagram for inspiration, but couldn’t find the look she wanted. No one had the right bling.

“It was all very modern or very traditional,” she said. “At the time, anybody who would think of glam would think, ‘Ooh, not for me, I’ve got kids, I’ve got pets. It’s just not something I can achieve.’ ”





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Victoria's Secret Underwear Haul

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